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Rubio’s Puzzling Presidential Bid

Marco Rubio appears [1] to be planning to make his quixotic presidential bid official in two weeks:

Mr. Rubio has made tentative arrangements to announce his White House bid on April 13 at the historic Freedom Tower in Miami, a Rubio adviser said, though aides haven’t yet made final the location and timing. The Freedom Tower is where thousands of Cuban refugees were admitted to the country during the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants.

The choice of location fits in with the themes that Rubio likes to emphasize, and he will probably make an effective announcement speech when the time comes. That said, the decision to run makes no more sense today than it did a few months ago [2]. Opting for a presidential campaign means that Rubio won’t be seeking re-election. He might have had a harder time winning in 2016 than he did in 2010, but he would have had the advantage of being the incumbent senator. He’s throwing that away on a weird gamble to pursue a nomination even he must know he won’t win. His decision not to seek re-election makes it more difficult [3] for the Republicans to hold the seat, and it puts Republican control of the Senate in greater jeopardy than it would be otherwise. Barring some extraordinary surprise, that means that Rubio’s national political career will be coming to a screeching halt in less than a year from now. His ego trip could end up helping Democrats claim control of the upper chamber in the next election, which would be a fitting conclusion to Rubio’s brief moment as the GOP’s “savior.” I’m obviously not a Rubio fan, but his boosters must be more than a little perplexed by what he’s doing.

At present, Rubio has almost no support in the early states. It is possible that could be partly due to the fact that Rubio is still not known to large numbers of Republicans. That shows how relatively obscure he is when compared to many of his likely opponents. Considering how often he has inserted himself into high-profile debates over the last four years, Rubio is one of the least well-known [4] 2016 candidates. According to Gallup, just over half of Republicans nationally know enough about him to have an opinion about him.

Meanwhile, most Floridians don’t want him to run for president [5], and two-thirds of Floridian Republicans want him to run for re-election. That may help explain why his support in Florida [6]–his best state by far–is in the mid-teens among Republican primary voters. It’s not as if he is overwhelmingly popular overall, either. His approval [7] rating as senator is just 45%. Many more independents disapprove of Rubio than approve (48% disapprove/35% approve). That suggests that Rubio can’t even expand the Republican coalition in his own state. The people that like him want him to keep the job he has, and less than half of the state electorate approves of how he’s been doing his job. There is almost no constituency for a Rubio presidential bid in Florida, so why would there be much support for it anywhere else? As I’ve said before, there is no rationale for a Rubio presidential campaign, which makes Rubio’s determination to run this year all the more puzzling.

11 Comments (Open | Close)

11 Comments To "Rubio’s Puzzling Presidential Bid"

#1 Comment By PGL On March 30, 2015 @ 12:52 am

A solution to this puzzle: normal people seem to become deranged by the thought they could be the most powerful person on earth. Is their any good reason for Bush, Clinton, Cruz, etc.? If only we could have a worthy candidate who doesn’t really want the job.

#2 Comment By Ricard W. Bray On March 30, 2015 @ 1:23 am

During the Iran Contra Congressional hearings, one of the Senators asked Secretary of State George Shultz how it felt to have so many people, including a freewheeling Lieutenant Col. in the Whitehouse basement named Ollie North, encroaching on his bailiwick.

Shultz paused and said, “Sometimes I feel like Jimmy Durante: ‘Everybody wants into the act!'”

And these days the bloated Republican primaries often feel more like show business than politics. Maybe guys like Rubio just want attention. Or maybe they look at the competition and say to themselves, “I gotta be better than than the rest of these Bozos.

#3 Comment By Boys of Sumner On March 30, 2015 @ 1:41 am

It’s not a puzzle. It’s a second paycheck.

With luck, it can lead to being “a heartbeat away from the Presidency”.

#4 Comment By SteveM On March 30, 2015 @ 9:16 am

As I had noted earlier, I think Rubio is angling for the huge money tossed at Conservative Inc. Neocon talking heads. His gambit may be to actively escape the desultory Senate with a PR presidential move and then clean up.

I.e., Marco runs for the Republican nomination, does not win, gets absorbed into the Fox News orbit, makes a million bucks a year like Huckabee and Palin and lives large just gas-bagging.

BTW Daniel, are you and Pat Buchanan going to comment on this Arab League Joint Military Force that has been quickly organized to do a beat down on the Yemeni Houthi’s?

That was easy enough. So how come the Arab League did not self-organize like that to take on ISIS? And given that they have proven they can do it, why is the United States still dumping Billions into the effort?

#5 Comment By Noah172 On March 30, 2015 @ 9:41 am

With luck, it can lead to being “a heartbeat away from the Presidency”

Not if Jeb Bush is the nominee.

When Rubio inevitably drops out, will he endorse one of Bush’s rivals in desperation (maybe Cruz, and pitch it as a Latino-Latino ticket)?

#6 Comment By Bag Man On March 30, 2015 @ 10:05 am

@Boys of Summer “It’s a second paycheck.”


The Clintons proved that “public servants” who constantly campaign and keep themselves before the public eye can make big, serious money. The accounting side is murky, of course, but the Clintons’ net worth speaks for itself: Bill Clinton is the wealthiest living president, and one of the 10 wealthiest in our history, in other words more than twice as wealthy as G. H. W. Bush, who the Democrats used to sneer at as having been “born with a silver foot in his mouth”.

Rubio doubtless has a similarly golden vision of public service.

#7 Comment By Eric On March 30, 2015 @ 10:44 am

Daniel – if Rubio drops out after Iowa or another early state, as is likely to happen, he still has time to file for re-election to the Senate.

His decision to run for president is a bit insane, but not quite as insane as you’re presenting it to be.

#8 Comment By philadelphialawyer On March 30, 2015 @ 10:52 am

Once again, I find that Mr. Larison, who is spot on about FP, doesn’t seem to get domestic politics.

Rubio is running for President because he wants the job and is a Senator from a big State, and thus his candidacy is at least credible.

Many pols simply don’t like being legislators, even one as exalted as a US Senator. You are one in a hundred, as a Senator. As President, you are one of a kind, as well as CinC of the military, “Leader of the Free World,” and so on.

And, as mentioned, running for President, even if you fail, and even if you fail miserably, exposes you to a national audience, and paves the way for book deals, TV, radio and speaking gigs, and so on. As Mr. Larison notes, Rubio is not well known now. But after a year or more of debates, primaries, caucuses, and so on, he will be.

I would also mention that you get to live high on the hog and travel around, for the better part of two years, all on the tab of your campaign committee, when you run for President. And you can usually reward friends, relatives, cronies, and so on with paying, campaign jobs during that period as well.

Moreover, Rubio might actually not care all that much about the loss of the Senate seat for the Republicans. Or the loss of their Senate majority. Pols are remarkably selfish, and, to some extent, that comes with the job. Notice how little Obama did to help Congressional Dems in 2010 and 2014, and even in 2008 and 2012. Much the same could be said about Bill Clinton, except in 1998, when he was worried about being impeached.

Furthermore, if only folks who thought they had a better than even chance of winning the nomination ran for it, there would be only one, and perhaps not even one, candidate each cycle. Hillary, I suppose, is an odds on favorite for her party’s nomination. But no GOP candidate, perhaps, can say that. What would folks have said Obama’s chance of winning the nomination was, close to two years before the 2008 election?

Finally, historically, all kinds of folks have run for President, often with no chance of coming close to the nomination. In particular, in recent years, all kinds of oddballs have run in the GOP primaries or the run up to them…some guy who ran a tractor factory, Jerry Falwell, Gary Bauers, Steve Forbes, Donald Trump, some pizza guy, etc. Isn’t some surgeon thinking of running this time, too? If all them, why not the Senator from Florida as well?

#9 Comment By Noah172 On March 30, 2015 @ 1:45 pm


You are missing that while people may have something to gain in failed presidential primary campaigns, they also have something to lose. Being a US Senator may not be as rewarding as being Prez, but it’s a whole heck of a lot more rewarding than being out of office entirely, especially if you haven’t done it long, and thus can’t necessarily count on lobbyist gigs or other such post-political careers. Rubio is not analogous in this way to Herman Cain or the other attention-getters whom you mentioned. How long would former Senator Rubio be able to coast along as a media figure without a power-wielding position? Huckabee can do it (although even with him he had first maxed out his time as governor), but not everybody can, and Rubio might not make a good radio or TV host.

And none of the above is even considering how Rubio performs as a Presidential candidate. If he performs badly, if he alienates the FOX/talk radio crowd by defending his role in the amnesty legislation, if his Senate seat is lost to the Dems (thus angering party bigwgs), then he will be left out in the cold come January 2017.

tl;dr Rubio is a Republican John Edwards.

#10 Comment By CharleyCarp On March 30, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

I looks to me like Sen. Rubio will have until May 2016 to file for re-election, by which time he’d definitely know if he’s the presidential nominee. The Florida primary (other than presidential) is in August.

Obviously, though, as soon as he announces, folks in both parties will start angling (and fundraising) to replace him, and Rubio may well not have the political juice to get back in the race after SC (having done poorly in Iowa and NH) when even he has to admit that the jig is up.

#11 Comment By Anonne On March 30, 2015 @ 3:09 pm

I’m fully expecting Rubio to mimic Tim Pawlenty and drop out when he barely elicits a peep at the Ames straw poll. That will give him plenty of time to get back into the Senate race, but hopefully he’ll have damaged himself enough that he won’t win.